Wales to change guidance on 20mph speed limits, transport minister says

<span>A woman protests against the 20mph speed limit after its introduction in September last year.</span><span>Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images</span>
A woman protests against the 20mph speed limit after its introduction in September last year.Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Wales’s transport minister has said the government will “correct” its guidance on the introduction of 20mph speed limits in built-up areas.

The announcement comes after half a million people signed a petition against the measure.

In an interview with North Wales Live, Ken Skates said in many areas “routes that shouldn’t have been included, were”.

He said he wanted decisions on the speed limit to be left to local communities rather than the government imposing them.

“There will be change that addresses the concerns that a lot of people, including half a million people who signed the petition, raised on a consistent basis,” he said.

“These are: that there is generally universal support for 20mph being targeted in areas where there are schools, built-up areas like housing estates, and outside hospitals and so-forth, but in many areas routes that shouldn’t have been included, were.

“We’ve put our hands up to say: the guidance has to be corrected.

“This will enable councils to revert back those routes that are not appropriate. Whether the change will be radical will largely depend on what people want.”

Skates, who was appointed transport minister last month by the first minister, Vaughan Gething, in his first cabinet, said the government would listen to communities and implement changes.

“I want communities to own speed-limit decisions rather than having them imposed upon them,” he said.

“That is why this national programme of listening is going to be so important. We want to ease out what it is that people in their communities actually want to see happen, then implement the change according to the citizens’ voice.

“I imagine in some parts of Wales we will see relatively few changes and in others we will see quite a lot more, but we won’t know the degree of the change until we have completed that exercise, listening to people and taking stock of the routes people would like to see return to 30mph.”

The policy was introduced in September under the previous first minister, Mark Drakeford, with a promise that lower speed limits would lead to fewer collisions and people injured.

Related: Wales is bringing in a 20mph speed limit. Why – and what will happen?

There has been fierce opposition from the Conservatives in the Senedd. The shadow transport minister, Natasha Asghar, described it as a “monumental waste of time and resources”.

Drakeford has conceded that more could have been done to prepare the ground for the policy, but said he stood by it.

Gething said the government had got some of the messaging wrong, but that he wanted it to work.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “The cabinet secretary has been clear that his immediate priority on 20mph is to listen. To support this, in the weeks ahead he will be engaging with elected representatives, businesses and communities across Wales.”

Skates will address the issue in a statement on Tuesday.

The Plaid Cymru leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said: “Over six months have passed since Plaid Cymru tabled a Senedd amendment, and won the vote, gaining a commitment from Welsh government to review the impact of new limits and to empower local authorities to make further exemptions.

“I support the principle of widespread 20mph zones, but it’s clear that it was implemented very poorly and inconsistently, with too many roads changing to 20mph in places where it felt unreasonable.

“Welsh government must push ahead now and sort it out, working with local authorities and communities to ensure that limits are properly reviewed, and unreasonable 20mphs are removed.”